The Vetri Maaran-Dhanush winning combo strikes gold yet again, despite a lackluster flashback segment.

Asuran, an adaptation of acclaimed Tamil novel Vekkai, is a compelling revenge saga that also explores caste and social hierarchy. The first half, which is largely structured as a survival drama featuring Dhanush and his family, is quite simply stunning. As he demonstrated in Vada Chennai, Vetri Maaran is a master at building suspense. In Asuran as well, he keeps building the tension throughout the first half before it all explodes in a dizzying interval block scene. Dhanush transforms from the quiet Sivasamy to an asuran, and GV Prakash’s rousing background score making it all the more impressive.

Vetri Maaran’s flair for intelligent cinema is apparent throughout the movie. I particularly loved the scene when Dhanush and his sons futilely attempt to hunt a pig. Despite no dialogues passed between the characters, he manages to communicate so much to the audience. After exploring Madurai in Aadukalam, North Madras in Polladhavan and Vada Chennai, Vetri Maaran’s meticulous research is clear in Asuran, as he captures the lives of the people in Kovilpatti the way only he could.

It’s easy to see why four of the director’s five films have been helmed by Dhanush. The versatile actor delivers yet another noteworthy performance as plays a character who is much older than his real age. In a recent interview, when Vetri Maaran was asked why he prefers working with Dhanush, he cited a great example that exemplified Dhanush devotion to his craft. In a scene where Dhanush had to lie facedown in the squalid forest floor, Vetri Maaran suggested resting his head on his hands to avoid getting dirt on face, but Dhanush would have none of it and insisted that it wouldn’t look natural. The supporting cast of Manju Warrier, Ken Karunas, Tee Jay and Pasupathy are also equally impressive in their respective roles.

The only drawback in the movie is the lackluster flashback which runs longer than it should have and ends up diffusing the tension and intrigue set up by the brilliant first half. But the movie picks up its pieces soon after and ends on a rousing note with a strong message, which will stay relevant for years to come.